Dog owners are often under the impression that kibble contains everything their pet needs. In fact, a kibble diet could mean that your dog is missing out on several essential nutrients.
Some of these essential nutrients are only missing from cheap kibble. However, even top brands may contain insufficient amounts or low-quality nutrients. This is because official nutritional guidelines fail to recognize the importance of certain vitamins, minerals, and amino acids.
Often, it is obvious that your dog has a nutritional deficiency. A lack of a particular nutrient may lead to a lackluster coat, skin conditions, or diarrhea.
Unfortunately, other deficiencies are harder to notice. For instance, if your senior dog is lethargic, you may believe that this is down to age. Actually, it could be related to an imbalanced diet.
Even if you are choosing kibble with a high protein content, your dog could be suffering from a protein deficiency. This is because each protein is made from a chain of amino acids.
There are 22 different types of amino acids, 10 of which need to be present in your dog’s diet. Your dog makes the remaining 12 in his liver. If he lacks any of the 10 essential amino acids, he is going to suffer from poor health.
A major issue is that cooking foods alters protein content — and kibble always contains cooked ingredients. Heat can make protein less accessible or lower its nutritional value.
This is particularly an issue for the amino acid tryptophan, which contributes to serotonin production. Serotonin is a hormone that regulates mood and heart function. If your dog has a tryptophan deficiency, he may suffer from anxiety or exhibit aggressive behaviors.
Unlike humans, dogs are unable to receive sufficient vitamin D from the sun. Instead, they need to gain almost all of their vitamin D from food. Unfortunately, many dogs eat a diet of kibble that is deficient in vitamin D.
It is difficult to measure vitamin D content in food. Similarly, there is no simple way to check a dog for a vitamin D deficiency. However, you can test for 25VitD in the blood — and research has found that three-quarters of dogs have low levels.
Kibble often contains synthetic vitamin D. Check your kibble by looking for “vitamin D supplement” in the ingredients list. This does not provide your dog with the vitamin D he needs in his diet to stay healthy.
Why is that? Although synthetic nutrients are close to chemically identical, the body sometimes reacts to them differently. It is often more difficult for a dog to absorb a synthetic vitamin and use it in his body. In contrast, when your dog receives vitamin D from a natural source, he gains the full benefits.
To receive sufficient vitamin D, dogs need to eat wild prey and grass-fed, organic meat. It’s rare to find these ingredients in kibble, but you can find them in raw foods. If your dog needs extra vitamin D, you can also give him salmon or cod liver oil.
Despite being one of the most important vitamins for dogs, you rarely hear about biotin. Previously known as vitamin H, it is one of the complex B vitamins. Along with the other B vitamins, biotin plays a role in metabolism. Specifically, biotin is necessary for metabolizing proteins and fatty acids.
But that’s not the only function of biotin. It also ensures that your dog’s thyroid gland, adrenal gland, and reproductive tract are all functioning normally. In addition, it contributes to muscle formation, growth, energy, and keeping skin and coat healthy.
Although biotin deficiencies are uncommon, they can occur when a dog’s kibble contains only small quantities of the vitamin. Many of the symptoms of a biotin deficiency are obvious in the dog’s appearance. His hair may be dull, dry, scruffy, or even balding in patches (alopecia). His skin may be scaly or have lesions.
Other signs of biotin deficiency include a lack of energy, diarrhea, and poor growth (in puppies). Finally, there are symptoms you cannot detect without medical tests, such as high cholesterol, anemia, and defects in muscular transition.
In addition to protein and vitamins, dogs need minerals. Some of the most important are trace minerals — minerals that are essential for the body but only in tiny quantities. They support a number of functions, from bone growth to supplying oxygen to muscles and organs. They also boost your dog’s immune system, prevent premature aging, help with absorption of iron, and much more.
Your dog needs five trace minerals: iron, zinc, manganese, copper, and selenium. If you check the ingredients of your kibble, you’ll notice that many of these are missing. This means your dog at risk for a variety of health problems. Lack of trace minerals can lead to:
Water is the most important nutrient of all. Insufficient water leads to dehydration, which, in turn, can have a long-term impact on your dog’s kidneys and liver. If your dog is consuming just dry kibble, he will need to drink much more water to stay hydrated.
Drinking water, rather than receiving it directly from food, takes longer for your dog’s body to replenish fluids. This leads to strain on the organs, which can cause health issues. Drinking several bowls of water a day is a clear sign that dry kibble is causing your dog to become dehydrated.
The best thing you can do for your dog is to put him on a balanced raw diet. That way, you can better control what nutrients he is receiving to prevent deficiencies. It is important to note that not just any raw diet is balanced. You must plan your dog’s raw diet with the above essential nutrients in mind.